Posted on 25 April 2014
A research team have been awarded £190,158 from the medical research charity Arthritis Research UK to carry out a three-year study to investigate how rejuvenated cells from older people with osteoarthritis can be used to repair worn or damaged cartilage, reducing chronic pain.
There is currently no treatment to prevent the progression of osteoarthritis, and people with severe disease often need total joint replacement surgery.
A patient’s own bone marrow stem cells are a valuable source of potential treatment as they can generate joint tissue that won’t be rejected when re-implanted. However, as people grow older the number of stem cells decreases and those that remain are less able to grow and repair tissue.
Dr Paul Genever, lead researcher, who heads up the Arthritis Research UK Tissue Engineering Centre in the Department of Biology at the University of York said: “A way to ‘reset’ stem cells to an earlier time point, termed rejuvenation, has recently been discovered, allowing more effective tissue repair.
“This project will firstly compare rejuvenated and non-rejuvenated stem cells to see if the process improves cartilage repair, and secondly, investigate whether it is possible to develop new drugs which are able to rejuvenate stem cells.”
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of joint disease worldwide. In the UK, around a third of people aged 45 years and over, totalling 8.75 million people, have sought treatment from their GP for the condition. The condition causes pain and stiffness in the joints due to cartilage at the ends of bones wearing away.
Professor Alan Silman, medical director at charity Arthritis Research UK, said: “Osteoarthritis has a significant impact on people’s lives as it causes chronic pain and disability, and there are currently few effective treatments that prevent its progression.
“This study offers hope improved therapies in osteoarthritis through the replication and rejuvenation of stem cells. This is pioneering research, which has the potential to help reduce pain and disability and improving quality of life of those living with osteoarthritis.”
Arthritis Research UK is the leading authority on arthritis in the UK, conducting scientific and medical research into all types of arthritis and related musculoskeletal conditions. Receiving no government funding, it is the UK’s fourth largest medical research charity and the only charity solely committed to funding high quality research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis.